“She plays divinely,” the vidyādharī told Sumanas as Priyadarśana laid down his vīṇā.
“Smile!” Sumanas reminded her moody ten-year-old - a son throughout Vārāṇasī, thanks to her vidyādharī friend’s prompt magic at her daughter’s birth.
“How much longer will I be a boy, vidyādharī?” Priyadarśana demanded. “Your vidyā told you that the Cakravartin will expose me as a girl, but when will we meet?”
“Soon, Vatse! Your body is beginning to fill out, but only the Cakravartin is able to see that, thanks to the herb’s magic. When he marries you, he will assume coverture of your professional responsibilities. Then you will stay home, like every other wealthy lady,” the vidyādharī replied.
Priyadarśana sighed. “All the old traders bow to my decisions. Inexperience doesn’t matter. I’m their leader, because I’m Kāliya’s son. A girl wouldn’t even appear in their council. She would testify through a male messenger.”
“I know it’s unnatural, but do you really blame me?” Sumanas wailed. “King Brahmadatta was ready to confiscate everything when your father died. All that saved our estate was my pregnancy and you being a boy.”
“I don’t blame you at all, Ācī!” Priyadarśana reassured Sumanas. “I feel lucky that Tāta died before I was born! Otherwise, how could I have watched you managing the business, and learned from you? As a boy, I can play the vīṇā in front of everyone.”
“With magic, you can always disguise yourself,” the vidyādharī offered.
“Do I need magic?” Priyadarśana shook his head. “Isn’t natural ability enough?”